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BSMS > About BSMS > Contact us > Staff > Professor Hugo D Critchley

Professor Hugo D Critchley

Hugo Critchley

Professor Hugo D Critchley

Chair of Psychiatry
T: +44 (0)1273 678336
Location: Office 5, CISC, University of Sussex, Brighton, BN1 9RR

DA: Christina Lee
T: +44 (0)1273 873833

Other roles: Co-Director of the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science
Areas of expertise:
Psychiatry; neuropsychiatry; interoception; ADHD; Tourette's Syndrome
Research areas: Interoceptive awareness (consciousness of internal bodily state); dissociative symptoms such as derealisation and depersonalisation in psychosis, epilepsy and anxiety


Hugo trained in Physiology and Medicine in the University of Liverpool and received his doctorate in Psychological Studies at the University of Oxford. He undertook specialist training in psychiatry at the Institute of Psychiatry and the Institute of Neurology, in parallel with research fellowships including a Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow in Clinical Science, awarded 2004.

Before his appointment at BSMS, he was a principal investigator at the Wellcome Department of Imaging Neuroscience, UCL Institute of Neurology and group leader at the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience. Hugo’s research is currently funded mainly by the European Research Council and the Dr Mortimer and Theresa Sackler Foundation.


Hugo and his team have recently discovered that the way fear is processed in the brain is determined by the timing of individual heartbeats. This effect is present in the vast majority of people. The aim of Hugo’s research is to develop and exploit this phenomenon, which he calls cardiac control of fear in the brain (CCFIB), for both clinical impact and the broader enhancement of human-machine interaction.

The objectives of the project are to:

  • Characterise CCFIB in full, including its brain basis, its neurochemistry and the specificity of its expression in processing and learning within visual and auditory sensory modalities. This work will inform the second objective.
  • Develop CCFIB as a screening instrument for personalised medicine, with a focus on anxiety disorders. Hugo’s team want to know which anxiety patients express exaggerated, intact and absent CCFIB, and how this relates to pharmacological treatment response. Findings will enable tailored selection of effective medication.
  • Adapt CCFIB for the enhancement of exposure therapy and systematic desensitisation of individuals with simple phobias, for example spider or wasp phobia. This work develops the lab/neuroimaging finding that CCFIB is a means of accelerating extinction of threat, and delaying reinstatement of previously extinguished fear.
  • Implement CCFIB in a broader range of human-machine interactions. In the first instance, Hugo and his team will develop their expertise in virtual environments (VE) and augmented reality (AR) as clinically-relevant tools. By integrating bodily physiology (ie CCFIB) with virtual reality (VR) and AR, they will widen the contexts in which CCFIB can be used to enhance extinction of fear. Additionally, they are mindful of the wider impact CCFIB can offer human-machine interaction, in terms of the enrichment of recreational and educational experiences, and for the design of safety mechanisms for machine operation. 


Hugo is a regular contributor to psychiatry teaching at BSMS, as well as contributing to the education programme at Sussex Partnership. He also hosts psychiatry symposia for those currently working in the field.

Selected publications

Nikolaou K, Field M, Critchley H, Duka T. Acute Alcohol Effects on Attentional Bias are Mediated by Subcortical Areas Associated with Arousal and Salience Attribution. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2013;38(7):1365-1373.

Critchley H, Harrison N. Visceral Influences on Brain and Behavior. Neuron. 2013;77(4):624-638.

Seth A, Critchley H. Extending predictive processing to the body: Emotion as interoceptive inference. Behavioral and Brain Sciences. 2013;36(03):227-228.

Garfinkel S, Critchley H. Interoception, emotion and brain: new insights link internal physiology to social behaviour. Commentary on:: "Anterior insular cortex mediates bodily sensibility and social anxiety" by Terasawa et al. (2012). Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience. 2013;8(3):231-234.

Bogdanov V, Bogdanova O, Gorlov D, Gorgo Y, Dirckx J, Makarchuk M et al. Alexithymia and Empathy Predict Changes in Autonomic Arousal During Affective Stimulation. Cognitive And Behavioral Neurology. 2013;26(3):121-132.

Garfinkel S, Barrett A, Minati L, Dolan R, Seth A, Critchley H. What the heart forgets: Cardiac timing influences memory for words and is modulated by metacognition and interoceptive sensitivity. Psychophysiol. 2013;50(6):505-512.

Christodoulou G, Radulescu E, Medford N, Critchley H, Watten P, Mania K. A 3D Lighting System for fMRI Rendering Fidelity Experiments. International Journal of Interactive Worlds. 2013;:1-17.

Eddy C, Rickards H, Critchley H, Cavanna A. A controlled study of personality and affect in Tourette syndrome. Comprehensive Psychiatry. 2013;54(2):105-110.

Hart N, McGowan J, Minati L, Critchley H. Emotional Regulation and Bodily Sensation: Interoceptive Awareness Is Intact in Borderline Personality Disorder. Journal of Personality Disorders. 2013;27(4):506-518.

Minati L, Campanhã C, Critchley H, Boggio P. Effects of transcranial direct-current stimulation (tDCS) of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) during a mixed-gambling risky decision-making task. Cognitive Neuroscience. 2012;3(2):80-88.

Ryan J, Sheu L, Critchley H, Gianaros P. A Neural Circuitry Linking Insulin Resistance to Depressed Mood. Psychosomatic Medicine. 2012;74(5):476-482.

Pollatos O, Füstös J, Critchley H. On the generalised embodiment of pain: How interoceptive sensitivity modulates cutaneous pain perception. Pain. 2012;153(8):1680-1686.

Radulescu E, Ganeshan B, Minati L, Beacher F, Gray M, Chatwin C et al. Gray matter textural heterogeneity as a potential in-vivo biomarker of fine structural abnormalities in Asperger syndrome. Pharmacogenomics J. 2012;13(1):70-79.

Beacher F, Radulescu E, Minati L, Baron-Cohen S, Lombardo M, Lai M et al. Sex Differences and Autism: Brain Function during Verbal Fluency and Mental Rotation. PLoS ONE. 2012;7(6):e38355.

Eccles J, Beacher F, Gray M, Jones C, Minati L, Harrison N et al. Brain structure and joint hypermobility: relevance to the expression of psychiatric symptoms. The British Journal of Psychiatry. 2012;200(6):508-509.

Minati L, Grisoli M, Seth A, Critchley H. Decision-making under risk: A graph-based network analysis using functional MRI. NeuroImage. 2012;60(4):2191-2205.

Gray M, Beacher F, Minati L, Nagai Y, Kemp A, Harrison N et al. Emotional appraisal is influenced by cardiac afferent information. Emotion. 2012;12(1):180-191.

Critchley H, Nagai Y. How Emotions Are Shaped by Bodily States. Emotion Review. 2012;4(2):163-168.

Critchley H, Seth A. Will Studies of Macaque Insula Reveal the Neural Mechanisms of Self-Awareness?. Neuron. 2012;74(3):423-426.

Holle H, Warne K, Seth A, Critchley H, Ward J. Neural basis of contagious itch and why some people are more prone to it. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 2012;109(48):19816-19821.

Minati L, Grisoli M, Franceschetti S, Epifani F, Granvillano A, Medford N et al. Neural Signatures of Economic Parameters During Decision-Making: A Functional MRI (fMRI), Electroencephalography (EEG) and Autonomic Monitoring Study. Brain Topogr. 2011;25(1):73-96.

Beacher F, Minati L, Baron-Cohen S, Lombardo M, Lai M, Gray M et al. Autism Attenuates Sex Differences in Brain Structure: A Combined Voxel-Based Morphometry and Diffusion Tensor Imaging Study. American Journal of Neuroradiology. 2011;33(1):83-89.

Gianaros P, Onyewuenyi I, Sheu L, Christie I, Critchley H. Brain systems for baroreflex suppression during stress in humans. Human Brain Mapping. 2011;33(7):1700-1716.